Marital Money

I would like to think of myself as a patient person.  Stop laughing, I am serious.  Anyone who truly knows me is probably splitting a gut right now.  I am SUPER impatient and go through life at 800 mph unless something or someone stops me.  I also consider myself a pretty intuitive and introspective person (I think most of my closest peeps would agree with this).  However, when it comes to marriage and money, I am slow on the uptake.

I think it’s fair to say that most women (probably most humans) feel the same.  Whether we are money-smart or not, we struggle with the partner-money-conversation.  No wonder it’s one of the leading causes of divorce; it elicits a fight or flight response for most people, especially when it’s a foreign concept.

Last week, after spending an entire day budgeting for 2020, I sat my family down for a budget talk.  This was the first time we have included the kiddos.  I explained that we had some decisions to make and ran through our list of options (namely different travel options and experiences vs gifts and tangible items) and asked them to rank their order of preference. 

Interestingly, my son (basically my genetic carbon copy) responded almost before I finished asking the question and he knew exactly what he wanted.  Both my husband and daughter on the other hand looked a bit more considerate, presumably pondering their options.  What I learned later though, and what my husband has been trying to tell me for YEARS, is that he needed to see it in writing (on paper….black and white…how many other ways could he tell me!?).  

He is a visual learner.  He has been requesting a white board wall in our home FOR-EVA and I cringe everytime I think of building a conference room wall in my living room.  I resist it so vehemently because I don’t get it.  I can listen to a podcast on 1.5x speed and take immediate action on the content.  I cannot, however, read as quickly as he can; and I end up getting totally ADHD and re-reading the same line approximately 75 times before it finally sticks to the walls of my inferior brain.

We are simply different.  He is not less capable, nor less interested in our finances; but when I attack the subject like a bull running through a china shop instead of friendly Ferdinand with his humility and grace, I lose him.  He then feels belittled and frustrated and we both shut down.  We go to our proverbial corners and sulk and simmer and nothing progresses.

So, I did something decidedly different this time, I shut my mouth and opened my laptop.  The following day I put all my thoughts, and the numbers, on paper and sent him an email.  I sent screenshots with clear and concise explanations of my interpretation of the numbers, my goals and ideas for next year, and how I think we should go about getting there.

By the time his truck pulled in the driveway that evening I was in a completely different headspace.  I had forgotten all about the email and budget and numbers and angst and because of that, my guard and intensity was at an all-day-low.  This was the perfect breeding ground for good marital money talks.  The first thing I heard after hello (and all that jazz) was, “that email was GREAT!”  “Huh?”, I said.  “That email you sent today, it was so helpful.”  After filing back through the routines of the day, I found that dang short-term memory nugget.  Ah-ha, the budget.  

We went on to have a great conversation and listened to each other slowly and with intention.  Even though we still had differences of opinion on how to approach next year’s budget, we were much more open and gracious to each other’s ideas because we were coming from a place of mutual understanding and respect.  I had given a little, and he felt comfortable inching closer.  I cannot believe how slow I am to figure things out when it comes to marriage.  It’s like there is a special kind of blinder that gets installed post-honeymoon that prohibits you from thinking rationally about most topics.

I am no dummy, I know this is no magic bullet and that it will take consistency and I will be reminded regularly of our differences in learning and communication, but I feel so encouraged by our little revelation this month.  The truth is, I think we may be better off emailing back and forth about our finances than having knee-to-knee conversations.  It sounds weird, even to type, but it is what works for us.  It takes the emotion out of the conversation and enables us to look more pragmatically at the hard numbers. 

I guess the lesson is, that as much attention as I pay to how my kids learn so differently, I need to also give attention to how adults learn differently.  Expecting people to respond to my way of learning, thinking, understanding, and experiencing the world will severely limit my interaction with it.  I am grateful for my husband and his quirks (I mean differences). 😜

I guess it’s time to go shop Amazon for that whiteboard now.

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Excuse Me

Everything he said was true, I am a revolving door of ideas. Some are outlandish, some are mere genius, and others are just plain whack. They light me on fire and then precipitously douse me with a healthy dose of fear….

Sitting down with my partner this week, I was filled with a wild, vibrating energy. I had a full-fledged, head-to-toe body buzz. Spending every waking moment pouring my heart, mind and energy into my new business, I was feeling like Gumby on a playground. I told my husband I felt distant and manic during the past couple of weeks and as though I had let my committed responsibilities to our home and family slip, in lieu of my passion project.

He graciously assured me that it is inspiring and exciting to see me in my element. Being the amazing support system that I could never live without, and am not sure that I deserve, he asserted that both he and the kids have bandwidth to pick up extra duties so that I can push full force toward my dreams. He then said something that both crushed and lifted my spirits.

“Babe”, he said, “as long as I can remember, you get these ideas and run with them [fast as hell and with scissors] until you burn out, spin out, or otherwise crash head first into a full stop. This thing is different. You are planning, actioning, and focusing on producing something.” Whoa. It was as if the unspoken cancerous mass in the suppression of my consciousness was crystalized in the exhalation of his words.

Everything he said was true, I am a revolving door of ideas. Some are outlandish, some are mere genius, and others are just plain whack. They light me on fire and then precipitously douse me with a healthy dose of fear. All the typical fear mongers show up; failure, success, busy-ness, judgement, being seen, not being seen, fraud, exposure, antipathy, and on. Those assholes have bonded together, shoving ‘Excuse Me’ into the driver seat. That diva has been there ever since, with her boring responses to my inspiring ideas.

Excuse Me spent the past decade pondering and dreaming up a whole mess of nothin’. She was too busy building an excuse labyrinth to focus on creating something. She was always too “busy” and without enough money. Her kids were too little and she was too involved in their activities. The truth is, she just did not believe she was enough. She did not think anyone had anything to learn from her or that her experiences were unique enough to make a difference in someones life.

Excuse me is either dead or cunning in her hiding abilities. I do fear that she will come sneaking around the corner just at the moment I am prepared to do something brave and exciting, but I haven’t felt her impulse at all recently. Instead, I feel a new Me emerging and she is interesting. She is bold and fearless. She seems ready and confident, like a toggle slide-bar that is just about ready to snap to her centeredness.

If right time/right place is a thing, it’s the kind of thing that feels as though a lightning bolt has struck your central nervous system. I don’t want to lose the power of its energy. I feel as though I have to out-pace this elusive ray so it does not leave me. I sure the hell hope Excuse Me does not come running back from her hiding place to find me enjoying my life without her, she may begin throwing knives at my dreams again.

Right time and place needs some context, I think. I did not just fall onto this shiny spot and luck into this magical feeling. This seminal moment is one of alignment and fruition. It has taken years of fastidious saving, faithful investing, grinding it out, hustling and sacrificing to get to a place of freedom; and now that I am here I think there is simply no more room for Excuse Me in this house.

Maybe a bit of Excuse Me was a safeguard against unpreparedness and maybe she was a placeholder for the new Me. Maybe she was groundwork for humility and understanding. Maybe she was just a bitch. Who knows. I hope I do not run into her one day at the coffee shop just before I am about to launch my next course; but if I do, maybe I’ll have the grace to give her a hug and ask her to join me for a cuppa.

As for the new Me, I am starting to realize the student appears when the teacher is ready.

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C.ertified F.inancial P.rotagonist

You don’t need letters behind your name to manage your own money. Let’s get busy valuing perseverance and tenacity.

Imposter syndrome is real. It keeps even the most creative and intelligent among us living in abject fear of being labeled a fraud. In a world that values licensure and credentials above deep understanding, experience, and the ability to fail until you succeed; we have unceremoniously created a deep freeze on perseverance in the absence of static achievement.

“Are you a CFP (Certified Financial Planner)?”, I was recently asked. Moments before, the question had been whether my impending travel was business or pleasure and with a brief, if not vague, explanation I muttered about my passions for travel, finance, and writing; and explained that I was attempting to bring them altogether in a new business venture. I had not shared my business plans or visions with many people but being new friends, it somehow felt easier. I was ill-prepared for the resulting question, qualifying my competency.

The truth is, I viscerally desire to create something meaningful, to support women in the sharing of financial information and tools, and to utilize my decades of experience in both business and personal finance to some greater common good. But I didn’t say any of that. I said a sad little, “no, I’m not”. Inside I was toiling over how that one question so directly mirrors my cringe-worthy concerns about our society’s current value system and the aggressive exploitation of our youth happening in our education system. Unless you are a quick-witted and verbally gifted human, you understand the frustration that comes when a thousand words, which could have promptly qualified me, magically appear 10 minutes post-conversation.

I wish I would have told her that my expertise came in the form of watching my single mother lose her entire life savings in a single business investment when I was a teenager and that I also watched her, with Lincoln-like tenacity, build yet another business that is now worth 7+ figures. I wish she knew that I worked alongside my mother, inside the company and externally, to influence critical business decisions as well as personal, financial ones. I wish my new friend knew that I mostly supported myself through college and that my husband and I paid off $150,000+ in student loans and other young-life debt in a handful of years and then utilized the spread between our earnings and monthly bills to invest in real estate. I wish I had said that we have built a life focused on enjoying the important things but also saving fastidiously and successfully for our retirement all while raising two kids.

I wish she knew that I have a degree in International Business and Financial Management but that it means less to me and taught me less than any of the aforementioned experiences. I wish she knew that I have more knowledge about personal finance floating around in my head than many of the professional financial planners I have met. I wish she knew that while most financial professionals are focused on business development; I am reading Dalio, studying historical economies and debt cycles, and scanning FRED economic data for insight. But she’ll never know that because it is impossible to sum up all of that experience with 3 little letters.

So, imagine my satisfaction the following day, when another new friend heard my vision and asked, “how much do I need to begin investing?” Now, there is a question I can lay down some words to. It was a meaningful question and she was fully open to my life experiences improving her own. Not shocking, but still horrifying, a fiduciary Certified Financial Planner (CFP) had recently spoken to their women-run organization about investing. After what she called a “really helpful” meeting, my friend still believed $5,000 was the minimum she would need in order to begin investing and further, that she would absolutely need to hire someone to “do it” for her. You can understand why this 45-year-old friend feels dejected and that “maybe someday” she will be able to begin investing.

It was a Big Magic moment. (Thank you Elizabeth Gilbert for teaching me that Big Magic can make a seemingly defeating moment open you up more fully to the next). I felt the rejuvenation of my creativity and the full force of the world pushing me to snag this idea, hold it steady in my arms and bring it forth for the good of the people asking the meaningful questions. So, I officially designate myself a CFP, Certified Financial Protagonist, advocate for the people with no letters behind their names. I will fight for their right to financial freedom, at their own making.

Who knows, maybe you could chalk up the CFP comment to privilege or curiosity or maybe even her own feelings of inferiority on the subject matter. Whatever the case, the story is forever scribed here as a reminder to you and I alike that your story matters, your efforts matter, the ideas that you have culled out of the universe’s infinite flow of consciousness matter.

The only way to dilute their importance is to leave them alone, untouched and malnourished, to whither until they are less than nothing. Big Magic moments are curated, they are sitting idle waiting to be gathered and tended. Financial Independence allows you to capture your vision, to live your life according only to your measure. No letters in the world, assembled in any way, can qualify your Big Magic. There is no license for creativity, nor freedom.

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Reverse Imagineering

Pull out your crayolas and start dreaming, it’s time to reverse our reverse imagineering. Let’s build it.

I recently returned from a fabulous solo trip to Disney World. Invited for a special preview of Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge, I jumped at the opportunity to spend a few days alone, working and relaxing and experiencing something brand new in such a special way. I excitedly counted down the days and thoughtfully planned my hours in order to maximize my sacred and infrequent quiet time. I prepared all meals for my family for the entire length of my time away (more for my satisfaction of knowing they were taken care of than the actual need to do it).

My excitement was billowing and I was afraid sleep would come late and leave me groggy for my 6am flight. Come it did, and soon enough to require only mild amounts of caffeinated libations. I was off on my own and the feeling was incredible. I enjoy traveling with my family, of course, but there is something about leaving behind the cocoon of motherhood and spousedom that enables a person to really nurture their own soul. Garnered perspectives, personal growth and self-care manifest into a whole-person-healing kind of experience.

I have always loved Disney, the company and the man. Sure, the movies are fun and the parks are about as memorable as any childhood adventure. But what I really love, what springs my passion, is the attention to detail and the devotion to CREATING magic that Walt Disney himself demanded not only of himself but from those who worked for him. Anyone with the slightest admiration for the Disney company knows the extreme detail that goes into the imagineering of their products and services.

Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge never missed a step. From the uniquely dressed cast members to the intricate ships and marketplace and shops to the hidden adventure of the play app, it blew any preconceptions out of the galaxy. The dining and entertainment were incredible and I was able to meet some fellow solo travelers, enjoying themselves as much as I was. We were living our best lives according to our own rulebook and it felt empowering and satisfying.

Fast forward a couple days and a couple hundred miles and I noticed a curious reply to a social post highlighting my trip in pictures. “I still can’t believe you did this without your kids!!! hahaha”. There it was, the black and white proof of reverse imagineering. I knew it was there. Recent commentary by some of earth’s least interesting Homo sapiens had proven that this backlash against the imagination is starting to show up like every other uninspiring rant on the social megaphone.

But this was alarming because this dear friend is one of the most creative people I know. She is incredibly talented, vivacious, driven and…fun! How could SHE not believe in the necessity of the adult imagination. Or, maybe she just doesn’t understand? It has to be a misunderstanding, right? It is scary to think so many talented and creative people could be missing the boat on the idea that just because we have exited childhood and entered the world of never-ending obligations, unequivocally does not mean we should forego the ENJOYMENT our imaginations and our individual freedoms.

I COULD explore, as well, the Land of Judgement, with its thick air of disapproval and sticky muck of underground jealousy. I could expose the haters who believe that moms should never leave their kids to be taken care of by another adult who loves them, should definitely always choose martyrdom over building something to call their own, and under NO circumstances should attempt to experience the sheer joy of child-like imagining. But I won’t do that because that script is as old as time and boring as hell.

So, how does this relate to finance? Well, quite a lot actually. If we can’t even imagine our best life, how should we ever expect to curate it? Where there is no garden of hope or field of dreams, there certainly won’t be any harvesting. It is my strong conviction that MOST of those who have made it to financial independence (are able to support their family’s needs without answering to someone else in exchange for economic currency) have done so by first sparking their curiosity and imagination. It is only a start, but it’s also the ONLY start. You cannot plan for a future that looks like the present.

Pull out your crayolas and start vision-boarding because if you believe your life on this earth is bound by time, you are correct. There is a very spectacular horizon between here and there, but you have to stop and sit long enough, get quiet enough, and breathe deeply enough to allow yourself to IMAGINE your best life. Once you do, let’s build it.

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Say a No, Find a Yes

Just because you are unhappy with my NO does not mean it should have been a YES.

A friend shared something very poignant with me a few months ago. The sentiment was familiar then, but in a season where my time and energy were so wildly out of my control, it did not resonate as much as it has today. I don’t remember exactly what the meme on the iPhone’s screen saver said, but it went something like, ‘just because you are unhappy with my NO, does not mean it should have been a YES’.

I’ve been saying yes most of my life, even when people weren’t asking something of me. In high school I decided the bookstore needed to be renovated so we could raise more funds for our marketing club, so I spent 2 weeks of my summer painting, ordering new displays and creating an inventory system. In college, I made myself the honorary workhorse for a work-abroad program, creating beautiful presentations with expensive shiny colored prints and spiral binding. These were totally unnecessary if not overtly dramatic ways to hide my feelings of inferiority.

If high school and college were no match for the unending subpar use of my talents, becoming a mother was bound to halt my over exuberance. I am embarrassed to say, no. Neither the rowdy 10 year-old boy, nor the curious 7 year-old girl, with all of their young needs, could curtail this need-beast. Schools are not known for caring much about the individuality of it’s students let alone the neurosis of it’s parents. Once the smell of overachievement comes wafting through the doors, YOU are on the menu.

So, for years, I have said yes. I have feigned important on boards of directors, fundraising committees, volunteer hordes and party troupes. I have shelved my creativity, my innate need to take care of myself, and so easily let go of my dreams. I cannot find anyone to blame for this blatant disregard for my own life except, well, myself; which is such a pity really, not being able to hold someone ELSE in contempt.

The saddest part, maybe even more so than losing years of probable genius and modulating creations (I am a Leo, this is how we conjecture), is the fact that my energy and time has not produced some magnificent impact on the world or those who reside in it. I have not cured diseases or affected the hunger problem. If anything, I have created the illusion of waves in a sea that was already both full of life and full of enough oscillations to create it’s own tide.

So I am left wondering what could I have done with those tiny moments that add up to an overwhelming portion of my life. If I had remained true to my creative forces, if I had followed the little murmurs in the back of my mind instead of the amygdala response to my fear of being rejected, I could have made better choices for myself.

I digress; volunteerism and supporting reparations to challenges that we see as unjust or unacceptable is just as crucial to a human existence as creativity, but neither on its own allows one to thrive. We must be true to the divine within us before we can present and share our divinity with the world. Whereas to revel in our own exquisiteness without wielding it to some greater common good is a travesty not only for the creator, but for the created and all of creation. In tandem, being aware of our internal capacities and allowing them to flourish outside of ourselves, this is how great change can occur.

So where does that leave us? Well, I said no to 4 people in the past week and it was excruciating. It felt hard and uncomfortable and even a tad ill-fated but it was worth every awkward moment. I am writing this blog post now, feeling every bit of my insular cortex thriving, having carved this time out the universe’s infinite space. When I feel the cold shoulder of judgement or the snide glance of disapproval, whether it’s actually present or not, I can sit still and confident that just because someone doesn’t like my saying yes to myself, doesn’t mean that it should have been a no.

Saying no allows me to sit in the courtyard of our gorgeous stone-walled library on a Monday morning, breathing in the cool post-rain breeze and sipping my spectacular coffee. I am free to do what I love, to walk to “work” at 10:00 am after having fueled my children and taxied them to school. These choices are not made available to me only for the sake of my boundary setting, but because we have designed the life we want and have worked very hard to create it. We were undoubtedly born with privileges, but silver spoons were not one. We have optimized our privileges, the tools at our disposal and the determination in our minds; and maximized the time we have been gifted to CREATE freedom. And you can too.

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Net Worth

Comparison is the thief of joy. You are worthy of true joy, and financial independence.

‘Worth: a measure of value for an item’. No description could seem less humanizing. SELF worth is a measure of value, usefulness or validity that we PLACE on ourselves. In order to create this construct in our psyche, there must be something with which we compare ourselves. This is where the rubber meets the road.

For those of us who choose to compare ourselves to others, we use extrinsic factors such as other people’s approval, attractiveness, academics, etc. to stack rank ourselves against our competition. This creates instability in the level of confidence in our self worth. When this eventually turns to self doubt, our feelings of inadequacy and failure begin to invade our psyche and can cause depression, stress, substance abuse, and other unsavory consequences.

In contrast, those of us who choose to compare ourselves only to our prescribed SELF worthiness, use intrinsic factors such as morals, faith, and internal merit to judge our growth, achievements, and to create our own success story. This creates a more consistent and stable level of confidence in our self worth, whereby small wins compound over time, the new self ever-better than before.

Net worth can be affected by our self worth. Net worth is defined as all assets (financial and non-financial) owned by an individual or business, minus all debts and liabilities. Net worth and self worth are so analogous we could really look at them interchangeably. One relates to the internal, human value and one relates to the external, economic value.

What reigns true for comparison of the self certainly manifests in the same way with our finances. When we look in our neighbor’s driveway to see a shiny new SUV or hear a co-worker discuss the new pool being installed or a luxury vacation on the horizon, it is easy to begin comparing our lives. We may think, “how is it possible for this person to be able to afford this or I should be able to do these things too”.

Then, instead of comparing our financial standing with our own PLANS, we begin making decisions about our finances based on the comparison or stack rank to those around us. The real danger with this thought process is not only that we are now completely derailed from our plan, but we are entering into a competition we will NEVER win.

The irony is that our economic value or net worth has absolutely nothing to do with a shiny car, an expensive vacation nor swimming pool. Net worth has to do with the amount of “economic currency” we own. Why is it important to have economic currency? The answer is simple: financial independence.

Financial independence is our ability to live life the way we choose. To have the power to live the life we desire, take care of those we love, and to have the freedom to do it the way we want to. It alleviates working a job we hate or living in a place we would rather not, sending our children to schools we are not satisfied with, and any number of subpar life choices.

Over the years, we have seen our debts and assets listed on various forms, namely when applying for mortgages. We always knew the numbers, but we did not aggregate the accounts or pay much attention to the difference between the two groups until we became part of the FI (financial independence) community. This was when we learned why our net worth was so important and once we did, we immediately sign up for a free Personal Capital account.

What we discovered was that our net worth was one of the key factors in calculating both the amount of money we need to retire and how much time it would take to get there. Once we learned the formulas and began running our own calculations, EVERYTHING changed. We had been debt free (less the house) for a while, we had minimized our recurring expenses as low as we could, we travel hacked like a pro, lived a rich life as frugally as we could but we had not yet begun laser focusing on our retirement plan.

We could not believe how simple the math was, how quickly we discovered our retirement timeline and strategized our plan. Financial acumen has never been a struggle so it was baffling there was so much information we did not know. We are so excited to begin curating this overgrown forest of information into a beautiful bouquet of tools that anyone can put on display in their own financial house.

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Why We Need F-U Money

Money is not inherently good or bad but it does allow or disallow freedom. F-U money creates freedom and allows you to choose the life you want.

The F word is powerful, yes? It’s one of those words that when used sparingly and at just the right moment can really get the message across. Anyone who REALLY knows YesWoman understands this is a skill she has yet to refine. If Murphy’s law is accurate, we will have a handful of moments in life that will require a pivot, a re-write, or other existential summoning. When those moments happen, we will need the power of F-U money.

Like it or not, we are bound by the constraints of money. Money is not inherently good or bad but it does allow or disallow freedom. When we are not constrained by money, we are free to say no to those without our interests in the forefront of their mind. Conversely, we are free to say yes. We are free to make choices in our lives that can get us out of an unfortunate set of circumstances and propel us into a new chapter of life. Unfortunately, many of us do not have this luxury. We are not taught that money is a tool for freedom. Instead, many of us are not taught about money at all and what we pick up along the way are lessons of consumerism and debt.

2017 report in MarketWatch found that half of American households currently live paycheck to paycheck

  • 19% have $0 saved to cover an emergency expenses; 31% have less than $500 in emergency savings
  • Not surprisingly, about 49% of Americans are “concerned, anxious or fearful about their current financial well-being”
  • Interestingly enough, low income is not always to blame for financial hardship. Only 1 in 5 people (20%) facing financial hardship fall below the poverty line and make less than $40,000 per year

So, what happens when a child gets sick, a parent needs to be cared for, or a job loss occurs? Or more uplifting, what if we decide we want to change careers to fulfill our life’s purpose, a hard-working child is accepted to a prestigious university, or we simply want to visit that place we have always dreamt of while it’s still physically possible? Without savings and investments, these possibilities are severely limited.

Our lives are small flashes on the time continuum. We are gifted a certain, limited number of days in which to create meaning and enjoy purpose. We can be sure that no human’s goal is to be enslaved to any person or organization during that short lifespan. In theory and instead, we would all find our passion young, be matched to the education style that best supports it, work as an apprentice under a master in that field and go on to create significant contributions before retiring to a comfortable life of enjoying community service and other passion projects.

In reality, a typical person’s life looks more like a one-sized-fits-all approach to education, filling in the blanks with “undeclared” or “undecided”, landing in a job to make ends meet, working 40+ years to keep up with societal and familial demands, retiring in our mid-60s with little savings, dependent on social security and good fortune to keep us from financial ruin. This cycle is not the only way to live. We can live a life of purpose and richness that does not mean shiny objects and exclusive clubs.

Living richly means being surrounded by love, waking up and going to sleep in peace, having quality goods but only what is necessary, keeping a simple and exquisite home, traveling to places and meeting people who expand your understanding of the world, having space to breath and time to reflect. There are hundreds and thousands of small things that make a life rich, most of which cost nothing. The most sacred of these are time and freedom. This is why we need F-U money.

Although we have not yet reached our FI (financial independence) number and have yet to “retire”, we have reached a level of wealth that would not only keep us afloat in an emergency or job loss, but one that could enable a mini-retirement in the event something happens that we cannot foresee. We have the ability to fully fund and control our lives. If we decide the employer who writes our paycheck is no longer a healthy space to create, we experience a medical emergency or other crisis occurs, we can pivot.

It is impossible to explain the feeling, the shift in attitude, and level of confidence a financially free person ascertains when they realize they have the power. It is one of those “you will know it when you feel it” phenomena. Something forever changes in the moment you realize that no one has the ability to demand an action in their favor in exchange for economic currency. The world shifts on it’s axis.

F-U money is about having enough in our coffers to pay for our necessities without “clocking in”. We can use our F-U money to have Freedom, live Fearlessly, and have the Flexibility to say yes…or to say no. The power of these F words have the ability to change our lives…and we DO NOT have to use them sparingly or at just the right moment. So, get loud and start dropping F-bombs, we only get one life.

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Say Yes To The Life You Want

Say YES to the life you want! And say NO to debt. What is YOUR value proposition?

Typically, the life we want is the life we already have, awakened and realized. Why then do we seek outside of the boundaries of our present situation attempting to create meaning? We make our lives a complicated web of schedules and activities, illusions and displays, Pinterest-perfect parties and pristinely packaged people. Is this what we naturally crave, this perfection? This perpetually just-out-of-reach goal of what we should be doing, should look like, should act like?

A value proposition is a company’s promise to deliver a product or service based on it’s attractiveness to the customer. So, in essence, we as consumers are dictating how a company markets it’s wares to us. “Well, YesWoman, that sounds pretty great” you say. “Being catered to feels good, it makes us feel important and seen and understood”. Wolves in sheep’s clothing, friends.

The downside of this type of value proposition is it targets our insecurities and the emotions tied to them, inundating us with messages to reinforce them. Unfortunately, this means no magical unicorn guru for our rational, logical, secure and confident selves. Have you ever seen a commercial that said, “you look beautiful without makeup, your 10-year old car runs perfectly, those post-baby pounds look glorious on you, please take care of your future by inserting as much of your income as possible to your self-directed investments”? Of course not.

What if the value proposition was, what do you ACTUALLY value. Not what does society say you should value, what does your neighbor value, what does the vacuum of social media value, but what do EACH. OF. US., individually, value. What brings joy and peace? What elevates our minds and strengthens our relationships? Take a minute and answer these questions for yourself. Let’s retrain our brains and our budgets to deliver to us what is MOST attractive.

Nine years ago, we decided it was time to be intentional about our values. At that time, we had collectively over $150,000 in consumer debt comprised of student loans, auto loans, and credit cards. We had a 2 year-old child and one on the way. We were both working full-time and paying for private pre-school. We were making well over six figures and barely paying our bills. We knew something had to change. We always had a budget but it was typically very short-sighted and rarely met.

The first big change we implemented was the development of our first intense short-term goal; a debt avalanche. We spent a year paying off credit card debt. During that time, we lived with only one car, gave up travel, eating out, and all non-essential spending. We replaced those activities by spending a good deal of time looking forward, setting goals, and budgeting for the long-term.

During this time of discovering our true values, we made what we consider one of the best parental decisions we have made for our children. Since then, it’s also become the best financial decision we have ever made for our family (even more-so than our real estate investments). We decided to go to a one-income family. “That seems counter-productive YesWoman”. Maybe, but here is the hard truth. With two full-time jobs, we were always juggling logistics. Who is managing the kids, who is managing the groceries and cooking, who is handling the finances and doctors appointments and house maintenance? The list is endless.

Going to one-income allowed for one of us to handle everything at home so the other could spend the weekday hours solely focused on aggressively maximizing our income. As the years progressed, much more was asked of the career spouse. Travel, networking, board seats, etc. were required, but it seemed doable given one of us was always home. It can sound cliche and dated, but for us it has and continues to work. Earning potential was the basis for the decision on which partner would fill which role and we understand there are many socio-economic factors that can play into this. The bottom line is, if you have children, the most efficient team setup is for someone to manage the offense while the other manages the defense.

We are almost a decade in and this decision, made originally with the sole purpose of being instrumental and present in our children’s lives, has proved also, to be the best investment we have made so far. To be clear, we have also invested in real estate, tightened up our spending, paid off every debt (except for our home) and continue to drive our 7 and 9 year-old cars. We have changed the way we view money and have put it to work for us instead of being a slave to it. It has afforded us the option of choosing how our children are educated and more than anything has created a sense of peace in our lives and if the tide shifts, we can move with it instead of being displaced by it or drowning.

Our family income has doubled in that time and that doesn’t take into account the retirement benefits that reaching upper management has afforded. We went from six figures in debt to a net worth of more than we could have imagined in less than 10 years. In this, we are not special. There are so many articles, podcasts and stories of other people achieving similar and even greater goals.

Our ultimate long-term goal is to create a “perpetual money machine” that will enable us to live our lives according to our value proposition; that time spent together, giving to those with less opportunities, traveling this vast world, learning and growing in mind, body and spirit; and being free to choose how we live out our days is what truly matters. If all of those values are realized by the time we are on our death beds but we don’t get our Tesla, we don’t think we’ll much give a damn.

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Life Credits

What if money were simply a tool to build wealth? What if no matter where you are now you could eventually become financially independent and even wealthy?

It stands to reason that our feelings regarding money affect our thoughts about money and therefore our behavior toward money. Money can expose feelings of shame, fear, regret and frustration, making us experience money as an unstable constraint. The perceived danger either encourages us to fight or flee. We either try to control the money (creating a power struggle that typically does damage to our closest relationships). Or, we turn a blind eye (avoiding addressing and discussing money, which typically does damage to our closest relationships). The damage is being done you see, whatever our natural response.

Many of us did not grow up learning the basics of managing money, how to be aggressive in earning it or how to properly put it to work; let alone how our economic engines and financial systems operate. Many adults missed this critical mass of information in their youth and by the time the unconscious incompetence (I don’t know what I don’t know) stage was over, their hole was so deep the entry was no longer visible, making finding the exit implausible. In addition, messages of shame and worth became entangled with money and there was little emotional or financial education to sort through the mess.

Before we can seek to find the exit and plan our escape strategy, we need to make an attempt to patch up our relationship with money. We need to name it something with a neutral vibration. What if it were called Life Credits? Think Super Mario Bros. We earn life credits by collecting coins and special bricks, dodging pitfalls, gaining bonus credits for efficiency, leveling up stage-by-stage, world-by-world until we have defeated the Goombas and mastered the game.

Real life is much the same. Every coin we collect and every bonus we earn is a life credit. We can use those credits to make purchases, grow our lifestyle, design an image for ourselves, attempt to create a sense of worthiness in our lives, all while effectively transferring our life credits one by one to the elusive marketing machine. OR, we can use those credits to build our own wealth and live independently.

Warren Buffet has been quoted saying “the stock market is a device for transferring money from the impatient to the patient.” Let’s assume the same theory reigns true for marketing. Marketers understand the psychology of money, it’s intrinsic emotional gravitations and they use it to lure our life credits away from us, making their corporate clients wealthy and leaving us broke. In that way, commercialism is a device for transferring money from the less informed to the strategic, emotion manipulators.

Do not misunderstand. It is vital to have hobbies, desires, needs, and to make purchases to satisfy them. Deprivation creates it’s own sort of money mess. What we are talking about is the type of targeted consumerism that seeks to quiet anxieties, self-doubt, fear, shame, boredom and the like. Pandering to these emotions creates wealth for the marketer and debt (or at best, decreased wealth) for the consumer.

9 years ago, we bought a brand new car. We had spent 2 years living on Michigan Avenue in Downtown Chicago without vehicles, utilizing public transportation and our own feet. When the opportunity to move closer to family presented itself, we decided we needed a brand new $50,000 SUV in order to move to the burbs. Interest rates were literally ZERO and every ad told you so. We ran the numbers and it made sense to us at the time to finance our BRAND. NEW. CAR. Well, it’s a good thing that we still love that car because we will be driving it for the next 9. We have learned a lot since that purchase. We have learned about the future value of our life credits and how that $50,000 would now be worth $170,684.60 if we had invested in VOO (Vanguard S&P 500 ETF) and paid cash for an old reliable car.

If we want to break the debt cycle in our own lives, we need to conserve our life credits. We need to understand the importance of exiting the revolving door of debt. Owing institutions every single credit we earn keeps us locked in the cycle. We need to widen the gap between the amount of credits we earn and the amount we spend, get the Goombas off the payroll, jump full-heartedly into the conscious incompetence stage (I am aware of how much I don’t know), ready to make the changes necessary to get to the conscious competence stage (I know what I need to do) and eventually to the unconscious compentence stage (I am a badass financial samurai who is doing financial independence in my sleep and can teach this to my friends and family).

Your life credits are yours and are intended to build wealth. Do not let the Goombas take your life credits and leave you broke and dependent on someone else to make life decisions for you.

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